English in a Tech World

I had a magazine for a while. I was in second grade and my friend and I wrote the articles on notebook paper, did the illustrations (full color, I might add), bound them with staples and distributed--well, we shared our one copy—to seven people. We had every intention of making it a weekly publication, but when it came to our fifteen minute recess, the jungle gym won out over writing a second issue. This was Koloa Elementary School, and the Vietnam War was still a thing.
Today, any of our students can reach readerships in the hundreds. They insta, tweet and vlog. They pin and Youtube. A clever turn of a phrase on an interesting photo or a two-second video loop that goes viral has the potential of achieving millions of views. And our high school students are experts at getting likes, hearts and retweets. They know how to make their voices heard--one of their voices, anyway.

Having students recognize that they have more than one voice is a big part of what we do in the English Language Arts department. To illustrate quickly, just think about the voice you might use talking to a three-year-old. Let’s say you’re counting. You’d probably count slowly, drawing out the names of the numbers. You would probably use a rising tone. And then think of the voice you might use to count chairs at a large dining table at Outback for Aunty’s birthday. You might whisper the numbers. You might count them in multiples—by twos or fives. Your communication changes because of your audience. Those are different voices.

Think about how your voice would change to the same audience but for different messages. When you tell your best friend about your new car you use one voice. When you tell your best friend about the irresponsible person who backed into your new car in the Longs parking lot, you use another. Students experiment with voice all the time. When I ask a teenager to change her tone, I am teaching her that certain voices are not appropriate for certain audiences or for certain messages.
While our students are tailoring their online messages to friends and family in a rather informal voice, our goal is to help them enter larger conversations on earth-shattering topics. We want the Applied Engineering students to enter their Design Thinking protocol poised for client interviews. We want our Model United Nations club members to embrace international talks confident in their ability to speak and write. We want every graduate to ease into university modes of communication having already found their academic voices here at Hanalani.

Most of all we want all students who comes through our English Language Arts classes to be able to share the gospel of Christ in the voice that will ring true to each audience in the Jerusalems, Judeas, Samarias and ends of the earth they find themselves, “IRL” (in real life) or digitally. Of all the messages they will give the next generation of our world, only the truth of the redemption Christ offers has the power to truly change lives.

“All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare’s Jacques entones in As You Like It. The bard’s words have never been truer. Technology gives our children an unprecedented global stage. Our English classrooms here at Hanalani are the rehearsal halls where our next generation gets ready for the performance of a lifetime.